Impact analysis for Covid-19 decision-making: school opening

This report from UK think tank the Legatum Institute includes an assessment of the impacts of the virus in the context of the decision on re-opening schools.

The human consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on individuals, families and communities right across the UK is clear to see. The impacts go beyond the here and now; with significant long-term health impacts predicted and lost schooling having the potential to impact livelihoods, productivity, and life chances well into the future. This report considers these impacts in the context of the decision on when to re-open schools in England as restrictions of the third national lockdown are loosened. It is based on the framework for understanding the range of costs associated with the pandemic and Government responses that we published in December 2020, available here. The starting point is that there are significant costs associated with the closure of schools. Since 5th January 2021, schooling has taken place remotely for the vast majority of children, but remote learning cannot replace the quality of in-person schooling, has a negative impact on children’s wellbeing, and negatively affects parents’ ability to work. As the impact of the third national lockdown and vaccine rollout starts to be seen in Covid infection and mortality rates, the Government faces the decision on when to re-open primary and secondary schools. This involves a difficult balancing act between the immediate and long-term impacts of lost schooling on children, their families, and the country, and the health, economic, and social impacts that a potential rise in infections caused by re-opening schools would have. We hope that this briefing will increase understanding of the breadth of impacts, how they interact with each other, and the assumptions and trade-offs that are presented by different policy choices. We hope it will also provide a way for policymakers and politicians to communicate the evidence behind the choices being made, to increase the transparency of the decision-making process, build trust, and increase the likelihood of achieving the best overall outcomes for individuals, families, and communities right across the UK.

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